Course Syllabus

Welcome to Agronomy 514 at Iowa State University!



Instructor: Edgar Nieto
Phone:  (402) 419-4009

Office Hours: Key activities in Office Hours include answering unclear content from modules. Please feel free to contact me at any time (email is best),  if you have any questions concerning the Assignment, Discussion, or Reflection components of the course.




Instructor: Daren Mueller  
Phone:  (515) 460-8000

Office Hours: Key activities in Office Hours include answering unclear content from modules.  Please feel free to contact me at any time (email is best) if you have any questions concerning the Assignment, Discussion or Reflection components of the course.




Modules clock-3.png Glossary
Modules Office Hours Glossary

Course Description:  This course will cover the biology and ecology of plants and the basic concepts of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  The course will use these basic principles to examine weed science, entomology, and plant pathology.  This is a required course for the Master of Science in Agronomy degree program and Agronomy Graduate Certificate program.

Course Prerequisites: AGRON 181 or equivalent, AGRON 501, MATH 140, CHEM 163, BIOL 101; AGRON 502 and AGRON 503 recommended.
Restricted to graduate students enrolled in MS Agronomy and Agronomy Graduate Certificate online degree program at ISU. Students from other departments must get permission.

Course Overview

Some of the modules in this course may take more of your time than you have experienced with some of the other courses in the MS Agronomy curriculum. We have a considerable amount of basic biology and ecology to cover in this course for weed, pathogen, and insect pests. Understanding the basic biology and ecology of these organisms is crucial to understanding the management strategies that we will cover in the companion course Agronomy 533 (Crop Protection). To guide you in your time management for this class, I have developed a time frame for modules and assignments (see the Course Calendar).

Module assignments must be submitted by 9 am (Central Standard Time) of the due date (i.e. assignments will be docked as of 9:01 am that day). Late assignment scores will be docked 10% per day late (a 9/10 score becomes 8/10, then 7/10, etc.).  Please work ahead if you know that your study time will be compromised in upcoming weeks. You are encouraged to do assignments and discussion postings several days in advance of their due dates. Read the discussion threads! Information discussed in these discussion threads may form the basis of, or be of great help on future assignment questions.  Also, be sure to check the course calendar weekly for current start and due dates!

Not all modules in this course will take the same amount of time to complete.  Please begin all modules on time to assure adequate time for coverage of the materials.  The modules are listed below.

Module 1. Scope and Concepts of IPM 
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Allan Ciha and Carol Pilcher

Module 2. Strategies for Integrated Pest Management
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Allan Ciha and Carol Pilcher

Module 3. Concepts of Abiotic Disease in Plants
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin and Allan Ciha

Module 4A. Concepts of Biotic Disease in Plants: Fungi

Module 4B. Concepts of Biotic Disease in Plants: Bacteria, Mollicutes, Parasitic Plants, Viruses, and Nematodes
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Allan Ciha and Carol Pilcher

Module 5. Recognition of Major Diseases in Agronomic Crops
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Gary Munkvold, and Allan Ciha

Module 6. Etiology and Pathogenesis (Disease in Individual Plants)
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Gary Munkvold, and Allan Ciha

Module 7. Epidemiology (Disease in Populations of Plants)
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin, Gary Munkvold, and Allan Ciha

Module 8. Insect Characteristics, Structure, and Function
    Developed by Jon Tollefson, Scott Heuchelin and Carol Pilcher

Module 9. The Insect Life Cycle
    Developed by Jon Tollefson, Scott Heuchelin and Carol Pilcher

Module 10. Ecology and Role of Insects in Ecosystems
    Developed by Jon Tollefson, Scott Heuchelin and Carol Pilcher

Module 11. Insect/Host Interactions and Pest Management
    Developed by Jon Tollefson, Scott Heuchelin and Carol Pilcher

Module 12. Concepts of Plants as Weeds
    Developed by Michael Owen and Scott Heuchelin

Module 13. Interaction of Crop and Weed Populations
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin and Michael Owen

Module 14. Weed Identification
    Developed by Scott Heuchelin and Allan Ciha 

Course Objectives

The objective of Agronomy 514 is to familiarize the student with the basic concepts of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and the basic biology and ecology of plant pests. The students are expected to master this background information so that they can:

  • Understand the basis for the pest management strategies presented in the follow-up course (Agronomy 533). The material presented in this course (Agronomy 514) will help you understand "how" and "why" various pest management strategies work.
  • Trouble-shoot pest-management systems in the future. A good knowledge of pest biology is crucial for trouble shooting ineffective management systems or fine tuning a pest management system that is not performing as well as was expected.
  • Become a more well-rounded agronomist. Whether you will have the opportunity to implement IPM strategies in the future or not, knowledge of these systems will aid you in understanding the complex interactions of pests and crops and how these interactions affect agronomic business decisions.

Course Structure

Course Materials Format

The online course materials in Agronomy 514 consist of 15 modules.

Each module is designed to take one week to complete. Your weekly activities will typically include the following:

  • Reading the online modules and utilizing the included learning tools.
  • Reading any required textbook pages and reading current research articles (if available).
  • Completing and submitting each Assignment. Assignments allow you to practice the concepts you have learned in each module.
  • Responding thoughtfully to each Discussion Topic. 
  • Completing and submitting each Module Reflection.

Required Textbook

  • Agrios, George. 2005. Plant Pathology. Elsevier Science. 5th ed. ISBN 0-12-473276-3
  • Pedigo, Larry and Marlin Rice. 2009.  Entomology and Pest Management. Waveland Press. 6th ed. ISBN: 978-1-4786-22857

Some modules will have required and/or suggested readings in addition to the textbook assignment. These readings will be available to you via the Assigned Readings link at the beginning of the module.  In addition, the module may also  have "Additional Optional Readings".  These are readings that you can quickly skim and use as an optional reference.

Instructor Interactions

Office Hours: Key activities in Office Hours include answering unclear content from modules, assignments, or discussions.

Email: Feel free to message the instructor via the Canvas Inbox if you have any questions or concerns.  I try to check my phone each day (including weekends) during the semester.  I will return your email as soon as possible.  This semester is likely to present us with special challenges.  If you find that you are facing a delay, please notify me immediately and we can develop an acceptable plan.

Graded Feedback: I will try to return graded assignments, discussion and reflections within 7 to 10 days of the due date.  Be sure to check your graded submissions for comments regarding your work and look for weekly emails addressing common issues I find while grading your submitted Assignments and Discussions and Module Reflections.

Grading Procedures

Assignments 20 pts ~67%
Discussions 6 pts ~20%
Module Reflections 4 pts ~13%



There is one Assignment each week. Point values for assignment questions vary, depending on the amount of work/time they require. The assignment total 20 points for each module. Check the course calendar for due dates. Points earned will be docked 10% per day starting after 9 am of the due date. 

Discussion Topics

The class will be divided into two discussion groups starting with DT2.1. You will only have access to your group's discussion board. 

Discussion Topics are student based and worth 6 points per module. Points are earned through your active participation within your discussion group and are based on your total contribution to the discussion topic. The number of points earned will reflect the quality of your contribution.

As students in this program, you come with a range of experiences to draw on for the discussion questions. Use information learned in this class and from other courses you have taken and from your personal experiences. Everyone is expected to participate in discussion postings in each assigned discussion topic.  Instructor will make additional comments and answer questions after discussion is complete. 

Visit the discussion board frequently and respond to your classmate's postings and their comments on your postings. A single posting will NOT result in full points. You will need to make 3 comments for full points on the discussion topic.  Note that the First post is due on Thursday and the subsequent posts are due the following Monday. The “First post” should be at least one full paragraph.  The two subsequent posts should be at least 2-3 sentences.

Module Reflection

Module Reflections are due the same day as Module Assignments. Journal entries are worth a total of 4 possible points per module. This submission is designed to help you summarize a variety of information presented in each module, provide you and the instructor your views on what aspects of the module were most helpful and what aspects were perhaps not entirely clear.


Communication Policy

All communication within the course should adhere to university standards of Netiquette at ISU. Specifically, communication should be scholarly, respectful, professional, and polite. You are encouraged to disagree with other students, but such disagreements need to be based upon facts and documentation. It is the instructor’s goal to promote an atmosphere of mutual respect in our interactions. Please contact me if you have suggestions for improving the interactions in this course.

For this course, communication will occur primarily via the Canvas Inbox.  The Course Discussion Topics are an excellent place to post questions and comments relevant to the module or of general agronomic interest. Keep informed—check the Course Discussion Topics frequently and provide updates.  

Be sure to properly configure your Notification settings or commit yourself to checking Canvas daily for new communication.

Additional guidelines apply to communication within your discussion topics. Please review the Discussion Topics section above. I will monitor discussions are they progress and interject as needed. Following the Discussions I will provide summary feedback.

After the Module Reflections have been submitted, I will review them and email each student with a the summary.

Throughout the semester I will remain in contact with students regarding late assignments, helpful hints, or any other course announcements.

I am always available for an appointment by phone.  I am also available by email.  Feel free to message me via the Canvas Inbox if you have any questions or concerns.  I try to check my phone each day (including weekends) during the semester.  I will return your email as soon as possible.

Feedback Policy

All graded assessments will be returned with feedback approximately 7 to 10 days of the due date. I like to gather all assignments together to grade during one session.  I feel this helps me to provide a better assessment for each module.  Be sure to check your graded submissions for comments regarding your work and look for weekly emails addressing common issues I find while grading your submissions.

Study Tips

  • Start each module on the date indicated on the calendar (or sooner). I am trying to work 1-2 weeks ahead of this class and provide you with the most up-to-date information surrounding each topic.  You will need to complete one module every 4-5 days. As a general rule, allow about 6 to 8 hours per module (4 hours to do the module + 2 hours to do assignments and participate in discussions + 2 hours for text readings. Some modules will take longer than 2 hours to read.). Spread your study time over several days. Work ahead when you know that you will be out-of-town or unable to do a module during its designated week.
  • Do each "In Detail" as you come across its link in the module. "In Detail" sections contain required information. Also visit each FYI page, so that you know where this supplementary information is located.
  • Do each Study Question and Try This! as encountered. They are designed to enhance your learning, to provide opportunities to apply the information presented, and to let you evaluate your understanding of the material. They often expand on the concepts.
  • Assignments and Discussion Topics may be done as they appear or after you finish the module and readings. Be sure to submit all assignments and discussion postings on time! While you may work ahead (if necessary), the most interactive environment occurs when all students are on the same module.
  • Interact with your classmates and instructor. Discussions on the discussion board can be used for anything relating to IPM or other pertinent agronomic topics. Many current events will occur while the course is in session, and they can provide good discussion and learning situations for everyone.
  • Do the text readings. Readings from the text and modules complement each other and are required unless listed as "Additional Optional Readings." Although these readings are optional, they provide additional information to reinforce the concepts presented in the module. At the minimum, you should at least "speed read" or skim these readings.
  • Something unclear? Consult with your instructor and/or classmates.


Category Description Action

Course Content Support

Questions related to course content or grading should be directed to the course instructor. Instructor via Canvas Inbox

Student Support

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching is an organization dedicated to supporting, promoting, and enhancing teaching effectiveness and student learning at ISU.

Self-guided orientation which you may find useful.

Self-Guided Orientation

Canvas Technical Support

If you experience any technical issues while using Canvas, contact the Solution Center. The Solution Center's hours are posted on their website.

Solution Center

Technology support

If you have any technical issues while using the University Library's Course Reserves system, please refer to the Library's FAQ page.

For all other technical issues, contact Agron DevLab Support. The Agronomy Development Lab staff is guaranteed to respond to requests within 24 hours during regular business hours. All requests made during the weekend will be addressed first thing Monday morning.

Course Reserves FAQ


Agron DevLab Support

Writing Support

The MS Agronomy program has built a Writing Guide to help answer some of the questions you may have while working on your courses.

Ms. Amy Pollpeter is available for one-on-one consultations and can assist you with any part of the writing process. Schedule an appointment with Amy through the CELT's website or via email.

Writing Guide

CELT's website or via email.

Library and research support

Anita Kay is the liaison librarian to the Department of Agronomy. She can help find any article, book or any other piece of information that you want assistance finding.  Anita has also built a really useful Agronomy Research Guide (Links to an external site.) .

Anita Kay
Agronomy Research Guide (Links to an external site.)

Department Contact

Contact Dr. Mary Wiedenhoeft, Associate Chair for Academics in Agronomy, if issues persist after working with the support systems listed above.

Dr. Mary Wiedenhoeft

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Course Summary:

Date Details Due